Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Today I’m going to make the case that (if you take the time to think about it) Ebola should be a liberal issue, not a conservative one. Emotionally, it’s a conservative issue because it raises fear, and conservatism is all about taking drastic, angry action out of fear. But rationally, Ebola teaches liberal lessons: To beat this, we need to think like a society rather than like a collection of sovereign individuals. We need to think in ways unrelated to the profit motive. We need to care for the weak and helpless, even if they’re in some distant country. We need to trust in our scientists and our government, rather than react in fearful and ignorant ways.

And if you could reach back into the past and restore those CDC budget cuts, wouldn’t you do it? What other budget cuts will eventually turn out to be similarly short-sighted?

In the weekly summary, I’ll look at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family and what it tells about Pope Francis’ plans for change, at Paul Krugman’s case for the success of the Obama presidency, and at the Supreme Court’s mixed record on voting rights. And I’ll close with a very cute radio piece about turning third-graders into radio reporters.

Expect the Ebola piece about 10 EDT, and the summary around noon.

BTW: No Sift next week. Though if you’re near Bedford, Massachusetts on Sunday morning, you can come hear me speak.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s Sift is heavy on featured articles and light on the weekly summary. The first featured article is my response to the much-discussed Sam Harris/Ben Affleck argument on Bill Maher’s Real Time: “Sam Harris and the Orientalization of Islam”. I expect to get roasted for this in the comments, because I know Sam Harris is a special hero of some of the Sift’s regular readers. But I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em.

That article is ready to go and should post right after the Teaser.

In the second article, “Is the Battle For Same-Sex Marriage Nearly Over?”, I look at the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeals of several states who had their bans on same-sex marriage overturned by lower courts. It’s easy — and I think probably right — to view this as a tipping point. When the dust settles over the next few months, same-sex marriage will be legal in 30 states. The Court doesn’t want to get too far out in front of public opinion, but the legal, political, and social momentum all run in the same direction. Expect to see that article at maybe 10 or 10:30 EDT.

In the summary, I continue to marvel at the Ebola panic. Exactly one person has caught Ebola inside the United States, and it has become the only health problem we talk about. Also, predicting the 2014 Senate races has become almost impossible, with supposedly safe seats on both sides suddenly looking uncertain. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I got so many good suggestions after last week’s “A Conservative Lexicon With English Translation” that I’ll be putting out the Second Edition this week. In addition to new entries, the Second Edition has a Preface that discusses origin of the Lexicon, and corrects misperceptions about the intentions behind it. It should appear around 10.

It’s been another busy week for news. In the weekly summary, I’ll talk about the Hong Kong protests, Ebola, the possible successors for Eric Holder, the Secret Service uproar, and the National Geographic Photo Contest. The closing is an amazing piece about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone changed not just the ecology of the park, but even its geography. Look for the summary around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m still deciding whether there will be one or two featured posts today. The one I’m sure of is “A Conservative Lexicon With English Translation”. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s sort of a follow-up to “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“. In that post I observed that to the Tea/Confederate Party, tyranny meant using the democratic process to change society, through things like same-sex marriage or national health care, and Second Amendment rights meant the right of conservatives to stop democratic change by violence.

When you think about it for a while, you realize that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole conservative language, where words mean something very different than they do in standard English. Voter fraud means black people voting. Freedom of speech means that a conservative should not face criticism for speaking out. The Founding Fathers are a complete fantasy bearing no real resemblance to the people who actually wrote the Constitution. And so on.

If you understand those definitions, a lot of apparent gibberish suddenly makes sense and is scary. So I decided to collect them all in one place, or at least as many as I could think of. I realize I’m not the first person to try this, but I hope I’m advancing the field a little.

The second possible article is my reaction to the Adrian Peterson story, which has morphed into a discussion about parental discipline techniques. As a class immigrant (raised working class, now in the professional class) I’ve had a chance to observe both sides of what is basically a class divide. If this doesn’t become an article, a few paragraphs will make it into the weekly summary.

In the summary: Eric Holder, extending the air war into Syria, the media ignoring the Climate March, and an epic rant from Jon Stewart about the scientific ignorance of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Oh, and somebody solved the “Washington Redskins” problem: They can keep the name if they just change their helmets.

Let’s figure the lexicon to appear around 10 and the summary about noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week will have two featured posts that cover very different topics. The first is “Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson”. I know, I’ve done a lot of Ferguson posts in the last month. But bear with me: This one uses Ferguson to illustrate the kind of big societal issue it’s hard to get a handle on otherwise.

Following the argument in John Michael Greer’s book The Long Descent, I think the central issue in whether the 21st century will see growth or decline is whether we are productive enough to maintain the infrastructure we inherit. (In Detroit, for example, the answer is pretty clearly “no”.) That in turn depends on how sustainably that infrastructure was designed in the first place, which is the main topic of Charles Marohn’s blog Strong Towns. Marohn argues that the car-oriented suburb is fundamentally unmaintainable, and that after a several-decades-long period of illusory prosperity, most of those suburbs will find themselves unable to support a level of economic activity that keeps the potholes fixed and the utilities running.

That’s where Ferguson is now, and that’s why it has to rely on misdemeanor fines for a substantial portion of its town budget. When the suburban car-culture illusion pops, you’re left with broken infrastructure and residents who can’t afford to move anywhere nicer. Your easiest way to raise revenue is to use the police to squeeze more fines out of the captive population. No wonder resentment builds.

Marohn expects to see a lot more Fergusons.

The second article will be “Is Ray Rice’s Video a Game-Changer?”. I think it is. Seeing domestic violence happen is different than just hearing about it, and I think a lot men who used to make excuses for abusers have had their eyes opened.

The weekly summary starts with a quote that made my jaw drop when I first read it twenty years ago, and the prospect of another Iraq War has made it very topical. The summary will also sample the wide range of opinions on the Apple Watch, point out that the “ObamaCare train wreck” continues not to wreck, and demonstrate once again that the real religious discrimination in this country isn’t against Christians, it’s against atheists. (Muslims too, but the example that popped up this week concerned atheists.)

Expect the Ferguson article around 9, the Ray Rice article at 10, and the weekly summary by 11. (All times EDT.)

The Monday Morning Teaser

How time flies: It’s been ten years since I wrote “Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz” to explain why Bin Laden’s worst enemies in the Bush/Cheney administration were actually his best friends — they radicalized his base and in exchange he radicalized theirs.

Well, lo and behold, this decade has its own evil insane terrorist superman who will destroy us all unless we get him first: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. And all the same logic applies, as I’ll spell out in this week’s featured article “Terrorist Strategy 101: a review”.

The weekly summary will contain other links to the ISIS story, as well as a discussion of the celebrity nude photo leak, the guilty verdict on the McDonnells, and a number of other short notes.

Expect the terrorist strategy article to post around ten, and the summary around eleven, EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy Labor Day. If you have a paid holiday today, thank the unions.

This week’s featured article is titled “5 Lessons to Hold on to as Ferguson Fades into History”, though I’m still monkeying with the wording. Often it seems like the country learns something from a traumatic news story, but then it all goes away in a month or two. Let’s not do that this time.

In the weekly summary, Market Basket gave us a feel-good Labor Day story, Senator Gillibrand’s book has everybody talking about sexual harassment in the Senate, Burger King wants to have corporate taxes its way, Hillary Clinton’s Ferguson statement seems late and weak, and there really is feminist country & western.

I’m aiming to post the 5 Lessons article around ten EDT, and the summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been another week of unusually high traffic at the Sift. Two weeks ago the blog had 71K hits, last week 58K. That’s more than half the hits the blog has had in all of 2014. The reason is “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, which is now over 100K page views and still running. Last week’s “The Ferguson Test” looks anemic by comparison at 1.9K, but that’s actually pretty good by normal standards.

This week I’m continuing to look at Ferguson, focusing on the different ways of telling the story, and how that affects what you think about it. If you start with the wrong frame, you can believe you’re very well informed and still be getting it completely wrong. The featured post will be “What Your Fox-Watching Uncle Doesn’t Get About Ferguson”.

Ferguson also leads the weekly summary: It came out that Ferguson’s court system is actually a money-making business, and fines — mostly levied against poor people — are a major revenue source. That might have some effect on the faith Fergusonians have in their justice system. Also, the video of an hour-long talk one St. Louis cop gave came out, and it’s scary to picture this guy with a gun and a badge.

This week ISIS and Ukraine/Russia also got a lot of attention. And the heat about the Washington Redskins’ name notched up a couple degrees. But there was good news from my alma mater, Michigan State: transparent solar cells. And we’ll close with seven amazingly creative acts of vandalism from around the world.

Predicting when posts will appear is a little more difficult this week. I’m aiming to have the Ferguson post out around 10 EDT and the weekly summary between 11 and noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Welcome to the hundreds of new Weekly Sift subscribers. The Sift works like this: All posts come out on Mondays. First thing Monday morning, a teaser appears. It’s chatty and previews what I plan to post. Throughout the morning, one or more featured articles come out, and finally the weekly summary with a lot of short notes and links. I try to keep the total word count of all posts (other than the Teaser) down to 3,500. I usually overshoot, but it’s seldom much over 4,000.

It’s been a wild week at the Sift. Last week’s featured article “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” had the hottest first week in Weekly Sift history. It already has the Sift’s third-highest total pageview count at (currently) a little over 60,000. It’s still viral, with almost 7K hits yesterday. If you were considering sharing it on Facebook, discussing it on your blog, or voting it up on Reddit, I hope you do.

For the first time ever I shut down comments on a post, for two reasons: (1) By Saturday, I couldn’t both keep up with the comments and write this week’s Sift, and (2) commenters were starting to get nasty with each other. I also deleted a non-spam comment for the first time, because its only content was a crude insult against another commenter. I need to rethink my policy, so that I do stuff like this in a coherent way. I want comments, and I have a high tolerance for comments that disagree with my posts, but I also want commenters to feel comfortable and safe. Feel free to make suggestions below.

Anyway, that was last week. This week’s featured post should come out around 10 (EDT). I’m calling it “The Ferguson Test” and discussing how the events in Ferguson give us all a chance to observe the unconscious racism in our reactions. Our conscious opinions about race are one thing, but the way our pre-conscious mental processes frame a racially charged situation is something else.

In the weekly summary (probably around noon; these estimates are never exact) I’ll link to a lot of stuff other people wrote about Ferguson and the week’s other big story, the death of Robin Williams. Hillary Clinton’s attempts to separate herself from the Obama administration’s foreign policy have got me thinking about 2016, which I’ve been trying not to do. In particular: I’m a liberal Democrat, so do I want Clinton to face only token opposition in the primaries, leaving her well set up for a Democratic victory in the general election? Or do I want a strong candidate promoting a more liberal agenda and forcing Clinton left, even if that increases the chances of a Republican win? Or is that the wrong way to look at it?

The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured article this week is something I’ve been working on quite a while: “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party”. For almost two years I’ve been on a reading project that has radically changed my interpretation of American history, and shone a different light on today’s politics. Along the way, I’ve been able to break out some of that work into articles like “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“, but today I’m going to try to sum it all up.

The full thesis is that the way you were taught about Reconstruction in high school (or in the movies) is completely wrong: Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War, and when you put the two phases back together, you’re left with a war that looks a lot like Iraq — an initial battlefield victory, followed by a terrorist insurgency against the occupation. Ultimately, the insurgency was successful, and the Confederate social order was restored. In short, the South won.

That victory set up a Confederate pattern of no-holds-barred resistance to social change that has been with us ever since, centered in the South but not strictly Southern. That pattern repeated most obviously in the resistance to the Civil Rights movement, but also in resistance to abortion rights, and in the current Tea Party rejection of all things Obama. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

Along the way, we’ll see where the enthusiasm for guns comes from, as well as the bogus co-opting of the American revolutionaries and the Founders. Scratch the surface of the Tea Party, and it has much more to do with Richmond and Montgomery than with Boston or Philadelphia, and inherits more from Jefferson Davis than from Thomas Jefferson.

As you might imagine, covering all that takes a long time. The weekly summary will be shortened accordingly, and I’ll still run over my usual word limit.

I always underestimate how long it takes to put the finishing touches on a long article, so let’s guess the Tea/Confederate article comes out around 10 EDT, with the shortened weekly summary around 11.


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